By: Greg Levinsky
The Boston University softball team is cruising.
Outscoring opponents by an astonishing 86-21 margin during the squad’s current 12-game winning streak, the Terriers are playing with a well deserved swagger.
From fifth-year senior shortstop Brittany Younan to freshman ace Ali DuBois, the Terriers (30-17, 10-2 Patriot League) utilize the entirety of their roster. Third-year head coach Ashley Waters has established a tight-knit group composed of contributors from all grade levels.
“It’s a group of just really great kids,” Waters said. “I love seeing them everyday, and I think they love seeing each other. It’s a really fun group to work with.
“It’s a special group, it’s a special vibe, and I think we’ve known that from the beginning. We just want everything to click at the right time.”
Center fielder Jilee Schanda’s offensive production is the perfect example of what is occurring top to bottom in the Terrier nine. The senior is in the midst of a 14-game hitting streak, securing multiple knocks in half of the games during BU’s nearly two-week winning stretch.
Earning a hit in 20 of 36 at-bats (.555) during the winning streak, the Fresno, Calif. native is just one of a number of hitters blossoming late in 2018 campaign. Junior second baseman Emily Morrow has raised her average over 30 points from .240 to .274, batting .342 (12-for-35) during the winning streak.
A feared power hitter in her first two seasons, junior catcher Alex Heinen is near the top of the Patriot League in a multitude of categories. An adept defensive backstop, Heinen’s offensive prowess is what jettisons her into the upper echelon of NCAA Division I catchers.
Heinen is batting .367 with a conference-high 38 RBIs, and Waters denotes her as the squad’s “most valuable player” for her combination of pure skill, work ethic and infectious attitude.
“Alex is one of the best catchers I’ve ever seen,” Waters said. “In terms of who she is as a person, it actually resonates on the field. She has the ability to be calm and bring some of that happy enthusiasm. She’s the first one to tell Ali [DuBois] if it’s an incredible pitch, and she’s the first one to give constructive criticism in a really kind way.”
Heinen has been the starter since the outset of the freshman campaign at BU, and she continues to hold down the spot with pride. Vocal and charismatic behind the plate, Heinen said she tries to help pitchers stay calm in high-pressure situations.
“With all of them, I just try to be really, really positive,” Heinen said. “I just want it so bad for them, I try my best to stay positive and try to get them to focus on one pitch at a time and go at it.”
DuBois (22-6, 1.91 ERA) is establishing herself as one of the top pitchers in the region. The Torrington, Conn. native leads a deep staff. She’s earned ten wins in the circle during the streak, pitching 61.1 innings and giving up just nine runs for a 1.03 ERA, while striking out 71. Heinen said it’s DuBois’ “drive to want to be good” that helps the young pitcher to thrive.
“She really moves the ball, spins it hard to try and attack the spot,” Heinen said. “She keeps coming back and trying to make adjustments throughout the game. She’s always going hard at her spots. Even if she misses, you know she’s trying to pipe it and hit her spots.”
“Ali’s done a really great job of mixing pitches, pounding the zone and finding things that work,” Waters said. “We’re just working on getting ourselves where we feel like we’re executing our best.”
Others have not had such drastic changes to their numbers, but their impacts are integral to the team’s recent success. Schanda and Heinen, along with senior Kaitlin Sahlinger and juniors Alexa Ponce and Madi Killebrew, have helped provide a power surge. Senior Emma Wong bounced back from an off junior year in which she batted .224. This year, she’s batting .356; six Terriers are batting above .280.
“It’s such a collective team,” Heinen said. “Even if the top of the lineup doesn’t get it, the bottom will. When we all mesh together, those are the good days.”
The Terriers lead the conference in the majority of major categories as a team, both offensively and in the circle. Batting average, hits, doubles, triples, RBIs and total bases are tops offensively. The pitching staff leads in ERA, shutouts, innings-pitched, strikeouts, batting average against fewest runs, earned runs, and they are tied for the fewest walks in the Patriot League.
And to boot, the team boasts the highest fielding percentage.
“I think we’ve gotten in our groove, We’ve matched up hitting, pitching and defense,” Younan said.
Eight of the 12 victories in this stretch have come in the Patriot League, separating the Terriers from reigning conference champ Lehigh. A pivotal series next weekend against second-place Bucknell will decide the location of the 2018 conference tournament. With a one-game advantage in the loss column, a 2-1 series win would mean the Patriot League postseason tournament runs through West Campus.
The Terriers swept conference foe Lafayette over the weekend, earning the win on both ends of a doubleheader on Saturday and a single game win on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
The Terriers are looking to match a 13-game winning streak collected back in 2014, when BU earned the Patriot League title and picked up a win against Louisville to eliminate the Cardinals from the NCAA Regionals.
Younan, a freshman on that 2014 team, earned an extra year of eligibility with a medical redshirt after missing the entirety of last season. She’s extremely confident in this 2018 team.
“This is a special team,” Younan said. “I can tell it’s a special team. It’s amazing.”
“If you have chemistry with people on and off the field, when you just want someone to do so well it’s about the bigger picture, not about yourself,” Heinen said. “That’s the key with our team. We really want each other to do well.”